New York City FC brought five academy players to this year’s preseason training in Florida: Joe Scally, Tyler Shaver, Justin Haak, Dante Polvara, and Gio Reyna. While Reyna (son of Claudio Reyna) is probably the name that jumps out to most people — and he has definitely stood out in training and with the U.S. Youth National Team — Justin Haak has been the most impressive academy player so far. He doesn’t look out of place during drills and seemingly has a very high motor. I got some first-hand insight by speaking with someone who knows him quite well, Jeff Saunders.
Saunders is the Sporting Director at Metropolitan Oval, one of NYCFC’s youth affiliates, where Haak trained prior to the NYCFC academy. (For an in-depth look at Met Oval go here.) Met Oval has been an excellent pipeline for the academy, sending over 20 players in three years. They are based out of Queens, with a practice field that overlooks Manhattan.
Saunders called Haak a capable and very fit player, which confirmed my initial impressions of watching him play. Haak primarily features as a no. 6 (holding midfielder), but can play the no. 8 role (box-to-box midfielder) as well. Saunders says he “reads the play very well and is very good at cutting off the channels and funneling the play.” And he can pass too!
But what stood out the most from our conversation was just how hard of a worker Haak is. Also — just as important — he is a team guy and “tactically very astute.”
Saunders had a lot of praise for the Brooklyn native and relayed that he is doing well in training camp with NYCFC. But Haak’s success comes as no surprise to Saunders. “He would be just as effective in a U-19 academy game as I think he would be in an MLS game. I think you will get the same performance, same maturity level,” says Saunders.
Hopefully NYCFC sign Haak soon, as he has clearly has graduated from the U-19 team. Whether the next step is straight to the first team or the NPSL or USL, they need to promote him as soon as possible. Haak’s biggest test will be in the preseason friendlies, where the club will find out where exactly he’ll fit in best.
Link to original article on SB Nation's Hudson River Blue: https://www.hudsonriverblue.com/2018/2/5/16966928/new-york-city-fc-academy-player-justin-haak-homegrown-signing